I have found a fantastic way to get to know a new city in three to four hours. I’m sure it will be no surprise to you that it centers around food! Recently, I have started taking food tours when I arrive in a city. I believe this is a great way to maybe narrow down a little bit more of what you want do in that city while visiting but also helps you decide on place you might want to skip.
Surprisingly, my first tour in Charleston, SC was due to the fact that my flight was canceled due to an FAA breakdown. After 15 minutes of panic that I couldn’t go home that day, tears shed and head spinning, I got it together. I got all of my ducks in a row for one more night in Charleston, and thought “so now what am I going to do”?
I decided to try a a food tour. Previously, I had done a tour in Charleston on a horse and buggy ride where I received a lot of interesting information. Most of what was shared on that tour was historical knowledge, architectural facts, and stories of the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
This was my second trip to Charleston. My first time was in 2016 when my son, who is in the US Navy, was stationed there. He was my walking tour guide. As you well know, I am a lover of food, its history, and all the things that go along with it. I pulled out my phone and googled Charleston, SC food tours. There was a food tour starting in two hours and there was a spot open so I grabbed it.
When I met the tour guide, Sommer, I immediately was intrigued by her passion for her job. She explained to be a tour guide in Charleston, any kind of tour guide, you needed to pass a test. She said she studied more for that test than any other she ever had study for in her life. These well-educated tour guides have to retake their educational tests every three years, at least until they’ve been doing it for 25 years and then they believe they are set. I admire that Charleston takes their history and that job so seriously.
The tour in Charleston was very much history based. Not only did we learn the history about the food and what we were eating but the history of the buildings. Sommer shared the history of the location of the restaurants and the surrounding area. One of the restaurants was in an old church that was primarily for sailors. You can see an anchor, versus a typical cross, in the stained glass below. Honestly though, every building in downtown Charleston seems to have some sort of interesting history. We visited four restaurants and experienced a lot of different foods. I have included some photos of what we ate but if you want to know where we went, you’ll have to check it out for yourself!
Then there has to be a lot of food to tour!
My daughter recently visited from South Dakota for the weekend and we met in Austin to see a comedian, Heather McMahon. Since we were going to be in Austin, we might as well do something “Austinesque” don’t you think? Since I had such a great experience in Charleston, I decided to look into food tours of Austin.
I found one that looked like a lot of fun. It offered six stops and was best not too far from our hotel. I asked my daughter if she’d be interested in going and she was game so I purchased the tickets. We met our tour guide Zach, as he approached the corner with his orange umbrella. There were 10 of us in this group and I was the only “local“ on the tour. The next closest person was from West Texas about six hours away.
No, in comparison to the Charleston food tour the Austin food tour did not have as much city history. Charleston has over 200 years jump on Austin, so there wasn’t as much to share on the tour. Of course, our food tour and Austin included barbecue, pinto beans, and a few types of tacos. Zach was took us into the Driskell Hotel to share some history of the bar and other legendary stories that took place there. Even though we did not go into a lot of the places in Austin, that he spoke about, he gave interesting highlights of the best bars, speakeasies, restaurants in all different parts of the city. Zach definitely gave a lot of information on things to do and places to go.
I enjoyed both tours for different reasons. In Charleston, the food was somewhat what I thought of typical Southern food like fried chicken and shrimp boil, but the rest of the food didn’t seem as “Charleston”.
The tour in Austin’s really did capture the taste and feel of the city and it’s vast food culture. There was a variety of foods tasted and I even learned how to sip soup from a dumpling.
I have also done a different kind of food tour in Modena that was primarily of the market then cooking together in someones home. You can check out that blog post here.
I highly suggest doing a food tour in any city you visit. I think doing this type of tour in the first few days of a visit is helpful. It gives you a sense of the city, it’s spirit and the tour guides plus other attendees have great suggestions of other things to see and do while in town.
Make sure you pack your walking shoes and your eating pants and book that tour!